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Lowell Observatory Receives $14.5 Million Grant for New Astronomy Discovery Center

Astronomy Discovery Center at Lowell Observatory

Architect's Rendering of the Astronomy Discovery Center at Lowell Observatory



August 26, 2019

***Contact details appear below***


Flagstaff, AZ.  – On the heels of record visitation and the celebration of its 125th anniversary, Lowell Observatory has received a $14.5 million grant to build its new “Astronomy Discovery Center” at its historic Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona.

A $29 million project that is planned to open in 2023, the Astronomy Discovery Center (ADC) at Lowell Observatory will increase the observatory’s public education capacity to more than 250,000 guests per year, making it a top destination for astrotourism. The new facility will feature several innovative guest experiences, including the Universe Theatre—a large auditorium that will supplement live presentations with video projected onto a wrap-around screen—and the Dark Sky Planetarium—a roof-top amphitheater that will use the famously dark skies of Flagstaff as a natural planetarium dome. The ADC is part of an ambitious Mars Hill master plan, the first stage of which is the Giovale Open Deck Observatory, set to open on October 5, 2019.

The $14.5 million grant to establish the ADC came from the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation following their previous grant to the observatory of $1.4 million in 2017 to support astronomical research at the Discovery Channel Telescope and long-range master planning efforts. Now in its 30th year, the Marley Foundation is honored to be part of the amazing ADC project and sees it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

This gift is the single largest gift the observatory has received and a material grant for the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation. Lowell Director Jeff Hall said, “This gift essentially makes our new Astronomy Discovery Center a reality. As usual per naming gifts, it’s exactly half the construction cost, it creates momentum, and we are already seeing that it’s inspiring other donors to step up.”

The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation was established in 1990 and supports all of Arizona in the following program areas: arts and culture; civic and community enhancement; education; heath and human services; medical facilities and equipment; and science and cancer research.


About Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) research institution, founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell atop Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona. The observatory has been the site of many important discoveries, including the first detection of large recessional velocities (redshift) of galaxies by Vesto Slipher in 1912-1914 (a result that led ultimately to the realization that the universe is expanding), and the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Today, the observatory’s 14 tenured astronomers use ground-based telescopes around the world, telescopes in space, and NASA planetary spacecraft to conduct research in diverse areas of astronomy and planetary science. Lowell Observatory currently operates multiple research instruments at its Anderson Mesa station, east of Flagstaff, and the 4.3-meter Lowell Discovery Telescope near Happy Jack, Arizona. The observatory also welcomes more than 100,000 guests per year to its Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a variety of educational experiences, including historical tours, science presentations, and telescope viewing.

Media Contact

Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory
(928) 607-1387